THORNTON — Hunter Doerr has learned that the calmer he can keep himself prior to a race, the better he swims.
The Air Academy senior obviously did a good job of keeping his nerves in check in Friday's preliminary session of the Class 4A state swimming and diving championships.
Doerr began the day by swimming the backstroke leg of the 200-yard medley relay. The Kadets set a 4A state record, breaking a 16-year-old mark by nearly a half second.
He followed that up by setting a 4A standard in one of the meet's signature events, the 50 freestyle. Doerr's time of 20.28 seconds bested the previous mark by 77/100ths of a second.
He capped that off by swimming the fastest preliminary time in the 100 butterfly.
Doerr learned four years ago that sprints were his forte.
"I'm a hundred percent fast-twitch (muscles)," he said.
But with all the enery he releases in the water, the key, he said, is staying as calm as possible right up until he stands on the blocks.
"I think about lying on the beach (and) relaxing)," he said of his thought process before a race.
Doerr's best previous state finish was second place in the 50 at last year's meet. He focused on two things this season to change his fortune. The first, of course, was to stay calm.
"Second, I worked on my flip turns," he said.
Fortunately, he only has to do that once in the 50.
"It's only one (turn), but it's the most important thing," he said.
The Kadets have been pushed all season by Cheyenne Mountain. He's friends with many of the swimmers in the meet, but when he enters the pool, it's a different story.
"I swim my best when I think about the guy next to me," he said of opponents giving him motivation.
Air Academy coach Scott Newell said this year's senior class set the standard as freshmen.
"Six freshmen four years ago made it a team event," said Newell, whose squad is seeking its fourth consecutive 4A team title.
Cheyenne Mountain has dominated Air Academy for much of the season, but Newell reminded his team of something this group had done the previous three years.
"We're not perfect all year, but we finish strong," Newell said.
The two are expected to go neck and neck in Saturday's finals.
As well as he swam on Friday, Saturday's finals, which begin at 2 p.m. at VMAC in Thornton, will bring about a different mentality for Doerr.
"Today I wasn't thinking about strategy," he said. "Tomorrow I will."
But tonight, he'll think about anything but swimming. That helps him relax.
One other 4A state record was established. Thompson Valley senior John Thorne set a new standard in the 100 backstroke, winning by more than four seconds in a time of 48.44, nearly a half second below the mark he set in winning the gold medal last year.